20 Tips and Tricks for Reusing Bottles and Cans

Don't toss out that empty milk carton or soda can when you're finished with it. There are plenty of ways to reuse them.

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recycled bottle gnat trap
Family Handyman

Bottle Gnat Trap

Want to get rid of gnats or fruit flies? Wash a soda bottle, cut off the top and make a line at about the one-third mark. Dissolve three tablespoons of sugar in 1/4-cup of vinegar, pour it in and add water up to the line. Set the top upside down in the bottle.

The pests can easily get in, but it’s hard for them to get out. Place the trap wherever the bugs gather. — Kelly Dahlin.

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bottom of a planter filled with recycled cans
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Saving Soil with Old Cans

For deep planters, fill the bottom with old cans and plant pots. The cans and pots improve drainage and create air pockets for better aeration and healthier soil.

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Milk Jug with holes holds a blue Cord inside
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Extension Cord Holder

Keep your long extension cords tangle-free and easily accessible. Cut the top off a plastic milk jug, leaving the handle on for carrying. Cut a hole in the side at the bottom for the receptacle end of the cord, and coil the other end of the cord inside the jug for carrying and storage. — Cathy Livesay.

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recycled bottle to hold string in a workshop
Family Handyman

Soda Bottle String Dispenser

Try this nifty and tangle-free way to dispense string or twine: Cut a two-liter plastic soda bottle in half and shorten one of the halves. Cut wedges along the edge of one half so the halves slide together. Put the ball of string in, pull the end through the neck and tape the halves together. Twist a piece of wire around the neck and hang it from a convenient place. — Bob Portman.

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milk jug trash bag dispenser
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Trash Bag Dispenser

Doesn’t it drive you nuts when that roll of trash bags skitters all over the place and unravels? Here’s a simple solution.

Cut an “X” from corner to corner in the bottom of a clean plastic milk container. Push the roll of trash bags into the container, thread the first bag out through the spout and let the roll fall back into the container. Pull the bags out of the spout as you need them. Wrap the bag ties around the handle of the container. — Linda Anderson-Jarosz.

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recycled gallon jugs to hold screws and things
Family Handyman

Neat Nail Organizer

Bleach bottles make great nail organizers once you cut out a section of the top. Stored on their sides, the weight of the nails keeps them from rolling. The handles make for easy carrying. And they can stand upright as well.

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pouring paint into an empty water bottle with marbles in the bottom
Family Handyman

Touch-Up Bottle

When there’s only a little latex paint left in the can and I want to save it for touch-ups, I put a half-dozen marbles in an empty water bottle and pour in the leftover paint. When I’m ready to do a touch-up, I shake the bottle and the marbles mix the paint.

A roll of tape with a rag draped over it helps hold the bottle steady while I pour the paint into it. Just be sure to use a funnel or you’ll have a mess on your hands. — Ron Hazelton.

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close up of hand using a milk jug as a scoop to poor dog food into a bowl
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Pet Food Scoop

I’ve read many hints that advise the reader to cut off the tops of gallon-size plastic jugs and use them for funnels. I’ve found that if you replace the cap after cutting the top off, you can use the top for a scoop for handling potting soil, fertilizer or pet food. The no-scratch plastic also makes the jug/scoop ideal for bailing water out of your boat. — reader Ray Dean.

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a spool of jute twine in the bottom of a milk jug cut in half with a string going through the top opening of the other half of the jug
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Tangle-Free Twine Storage

Can’t find your twine to bundle that pile of recyclables? Try reader Norm Hoch’s slick solution.

Cut the bottom four inches off a 1/2-gallon plastic milk or orange juice jug, then load the container with a fresh spool of twine that unwinds from the middle. Thread the twine through the jug opening and tape the jug back together. Cut an “X” in the cap with a utility knife to keep the twine from falling back into the jug.

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man pouring glue into a soap bottle
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Dish Soap Glue Bottle

Reuse an empty dish soap container as a refillable glue bottle. The small size and screw-on top with attached cap are perfect for squeezing out wood glue. Be sure to rinse the inside of the container thoroughly (including the lid) and let it dry completely before filling it with glue.
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close up of a woman putting Milk Jug bottoms underneath the legs of a chair to help move Furniture on a rug
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Milk Jug Furniture Movers

When you need to move heavy furniture on carpeting, don’t just drag it around. That’s hard on carpet and you might damage the furniture legs. Make the job easier with these homemade moving pads. Cut the bottoms off four plastic water or milk jugs with a utility knife and rest each furniture leg on its own slider. The rounded, slippery bottoms permit easy movement.
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recycled bottle turned into a plastic bag dispenser
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Plastic Bag Dispenser

To make it easy to stow and reuse plastic bags, fashion a dispenser from a discarded two-liter soda bottle. Cut off the top and bottom with a razor knife. Trim any jagged edges so you don’t tear the bags when you pull them out. Then screw the dispenser to a cabinet door or closet wall, or attach with hook-and-loop tape.
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Fh01nov 02263 013.ia2 Jv Invisible Wire Clamps
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Invisible Wire Clamps

If you’re running phone wire around a door, create homemade wire clamps from a clear plastic soda bottle.

Cut the bottle into 1-1/2- x one-inch strips. Loosen the trim with a small pry bar, wrap the plastic around the wire and slide it between the wall and trim. If the clamp doesn’t fit tightly, keep it in place by nailing a 4d finish nail into the trim through the plastic. — Greg Smithsimon.

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Woman squatting with Bottle Weight Gettyimages 1299959870
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Make Dumbbells With Plastic Beverage Containers

Probably the easiest method for making DIY free weights is re-purposing plastic bottles. You can transform any empty plastic bottle into a workout weight by filling it with water — or, for more weight, sand.

Here is the approximate weight you’ll get by filling these common bottles sizes:

  • One two-liter soda bottle = 4-1/2-lbs. water or 6-3/4-lbs. sand.
  • One gallon milk bottle = 8-1/3-lbs. water or 12-3/4-lbs. sand.
  • One 1/2 gallon milk bottle = 4-1/4-lbs. water or 6-1/3-lbs. sand.

Thoroughly rinse out the bottle, then use a funnel to fill it with water or sand. To avoid leaks, glue the lid to the bottle with strong-bond glue or seal it with duct tape.

To create a barbell, some people take a galvanized steel pipe and affix a bottle to each end. We cannot vouch for the safety of this, but we applaud the ingenuity.

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three Milk Jug Bird Feeders of different sizes filled with bird seed sitting on a work bench
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Milk Jug Bird Feeder

A water or milk jug winter bird feeder is easy and inexpensive to make. Rinse out the jug, cut open the sides, cut or drill holes for a thin dowel or chopstick perch, add the birdseed and hang it in a tree. Feel free to decorate it so it doesn’t look like you’ve hung your recycling in your yard.

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recycled bottle cut to hold tools in a workshop
Family Handyman

Instant Tool Holder

Store chisels, files, large drill bits, screwdrivers and other long tools so they’re both visible and close at hand. Cut off the top from a clear two-liter plastic soft drink bottle, leaving a flap for hanging. Smaller bottles hold smaller tools and common household items.

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person using a plastic six-pack ring to organize an extension cord
Family Handyman

Six-Pack Hangers

Save those plastic six-pack rings to hang cords, ropes and air compressor hoses. Fold over the plastic holder to make a three-ring strip, then slide one end through the other — around the cord or hose — and hang it on a nail or peg.  Thanks to reader Don Ruggieri for this environmentally friendly hang-up.

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pop can pull tab to hang hangers off of other hangers to increase closet space
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Double Your Closet Space Using Only Soda Cans

To start, take an empty soda or seltzer can and pop off the pull tab piece. Next, grab two hangers. Slide the hook of one hanger through the hole on the top of the pull tab, and slide the hook of the other hanger through the hole in the bottom of the pull tab. Ta-da!

The little piece of metal acts as a mechanism to hold the hangers together, letting you hang two pieces of clothing efficiently and easily. The best part? The pieces lay flat against each other, essentially taking up the same amount of space as one shirt. That’s like getting two for the price of one.

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person using a bottle cap to drill a hole
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Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps

My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps.

I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, then mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod so it doesn’t fall down anymore. — Rodney Sheets.

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water bottle buried in the ground to water plant roots
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Direct Watering Bottle

For healthy plants, it’s important to get water to the roots. Here’s my method:

I drill holes in water bottles and bury them alongside my plants, leaving just the cap above the ground. To water the plants, I unscrew the bottle caps, fill the bottles and screw the caps back on. It requires some extra effort, but it conserves water. And my plants, especially the tomatoes, are thriving like never before.  — Diane Newman.

Alex Shoemaker
Alex Shoemaker is a Florida-based journalist and  handyman who has extensive experience in home remodeling and house flipping. He has worked for numerous print and digital publications and has won awards for writing, photography and pagination.